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The Damned United
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The Damned United – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Set in the 60’s and 70’s England, “The Damn United” tells the story of the confrontational, outspoken and ambitious football manager, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), as he takes the managing rein of the Champions of the English Football Leeds United, which was previously managed by his bitter rival, Don Revie (Colm Meaney).

Brian Clough rises to fame in the football management world thanks to his – and his loyal assistant, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall)- success in building failing teams Hartlepool and Derby County, lifting the latter from the foot of the second division to the top of the first division.

Brian Clough’s idealistic methods of managing Football fail to work in Leeds United, and ugly confrontation with the players, who were used to the aggressive and cynical style of football. Consequently, Brian Clough’s tenure doesn’t last more than 44 days.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is not merely a story about football. In fact, there is not much football in this film. It’s purely a human story about rivalry and friendship, love and hate, and loyalty and betrayal. It could happen to anyone in any job, but in this case it was the story of a complex and a fascinating football manager, Brian Clough, who was driven by his hatred of his rival, Don Revie, and assisted by his loyal lieutenant, Peter Taylor, to climb to the top of his game.

The nimbly constructed script was adapted from David Peace’s novel by Peter Morgan, who turned the bleak story of alcoholism, arrogance, and self-destruction into a gentle, joyful and humorous film. In spite of the dark, vain and hateful nature of Clough’s character, we empathise with, admire and root for him as he leads his team to the top of the football league.

This bigger-than-life character was brought to the screen by Michael Sheen, who gives the performance of his career, as he inhabits the mad mind of Brian Clough. His previous work in the “Deal” and “The Queen” impersonating Tony Blair was commendable, but in this film he explodes with thrilling energy and truly rises to the challenge of playing a maniacal character and proves again that is a truly gifted performer.

“The Damn United” is a powerful drama, with solid script, riveting performances, impressive photography, and evocative production design, which deftly recreated 1968-1974 northern England – thoroughly entertaining.

Opens Nationwide 27 March 2009

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